Michael Shorten aka. Chgowiz writes about Dispelling a myth - Sandbox prep and discusses his six principles:
- Just in time preparation
- One page dungeon levels
- Write it down - play it on game day
- Let the players flesh things out
- Broad brushstrokes to events and plots
- Don’t overprepare
In the comments, he also talkes about note taking. I wanted to say something about taking notes after the game; I had also heard something like that on Fear the Boot. I googled for the opposite of preparation and guessed that somebody must have used postparation. And indeed, somebody has:
- Pre-paration is what we do before we start a job. Post-paration is what we do after we do the job. Completing all the postparation immediately after the job is what generates the feeling of well deserved relaxation. 
Taking shorthand notes during the game, and making them readable after the game are mandatory for my games. Otherwise I’d forget. Since everything new happens at the gaming table, I can just add these little notes to our Campaign Wiki after the game. If the players have met ogres once or twice, the ogre page on the wiki may be very short:
- The hills between Dangerous Jungle and Great Roaring Jungle seems to be infested with these giants. Then again, their minds seem to be weak.
- They seem to have a fascination with skulls. 
It’s great. It works.
It’s not “prep” but it’s still a little bit of work. But since it comes after the fact it doesn’t railroad anybody.
Tags: RPG Sandbox Old School DungeonMasterAdvice
I just read the pages three to six of Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering by Robin D. Laws. It talks about Player Types and lists them:
- Power Gamer – take advantage of the rules to maximize effect
- Butt-Kicker – a fight now and then to blow of steam
- Tactician – rules must simulate reality enough to allow tactical problem solving
- Specialist – play a specific archtype (ninja, knight, etc.)
- Method Actor – strong character identification, experience emotional dilemmas and development
- Storyteller – move the story foreward similar to a book or movie
- Casual Gamer – everbody else is doing it…
I think I qualify for Storyteller. When I prepare sessions that I’ve written myself, I usually plan to do plot development via roleplay at the beginning, leading up to a fight or two. I try to balance these two elements over two or three session arcs at the most. Thus, if a session was almost all about an intrigue, then then there will be a big fight and some form of resolution the next session, or the session after that.
Within a story arc of three or four sessions, there will be a number of hooks that offer players an in-game choice of how to continue the game. (I’d love to play much longer mini-campaigns and adventure paths in the future.) As an example: The players fought the orcs at Eralion’s castle in CrucibleOfFreya. The orc leader escaped and was not tracked. Random encounters alerted the players to the fact that there were gnolls in the area and they expressed interest in pursuing this. So instead of leading them to Tomb of Abysthor and more orcs and evil clerics, I’m leading them against the gnolls in TheDistraction. This allows players to determine the future of the campaign in-character.
I took Law’s Game Style quiz, and it confirmed my Storyteller type. This also effects my DM style: I don’t mind meta-gaming at all, if it makes for a better story! Conversely, I have to work on better tactics of my minions, and how to provide my method acting players with more opportunity for internal turmoil.
Looking at Georgios’ GM Types (the original in German: Georgios Spielleiter-Typen), I guess I’m “Director” first and “Provider” second. I do like the occasional “Plotmeister” session. I used to be a “World Builder”.
If you want to see how other people play, check out the EN World thread What is ‘normal’ for you?
Update: The only quantitative analysis ever, apparently: Breakdown of RPG Players.
Tags: RPG Book DungeonMasterAdvice
I like categorizing players by asking them to rank combat, interaction, and riddles. Personally, I hate riddles. They break the flow, and to be honest, I don’t get to see many riddles in real life, so riddles protecting things are not very believable.
Some players do enjoy riddles, however. What are good riddles to use?
- Let them find the riddle before any finding any hints. If there’s a locked door with a riddle behind it, don’t provide a hint outside the locked door. Players will think that the hint indicates that the locked door is the riddle. They’ll waste time trying to understand the hints they believe will enable them to unlock the door.
- Other riddles should be part of the environment. Fixing something is a good riddle: Players need to remember things they saw, figure out how those could be used to solve the problem, and maybe find something that is easy to find once they know what they are looking for. A dungeon crawl ends in a large dome. There are statues along the walls, some of them covered by scaffolding. Somebody must have been renovating. Where’s the treasure? Let the players discover that the scaffolding around one of the status has been moved. Moving it back to its original position will allow players to reach a hidden service tunnel leading to a new section of the dungeon.
- The most important rule is to limit word-based riddles to social occasions: Story telling, singing, games of luck, betting, and riddle contests are excellent entertainment. In urban settings, solving a riddle might give you a better price, earn you respect, avoid a fight, or gain you some information – because you have entertained somebody, played a game with somebody. At court, a party member is being accused of having betrayed the location of the Lord’s eldest son to the enemy. The accused manages to defuse the situation. Finally, one of the Lord’s advisers proposes a riddle. If the accused manages to solve the riddle, everybody laughs, an no face is lost. If the accused takes too long, people start whispering, and as the silence stretches there will be a voice or two muttering: “Fool! Stupid oaf probably just failed to kill our Lord’s son due to a slow wit.”
- Riddles should allow players to make incremental progress. This allows the players to get some feedback: Are they nearly done, or are they going nowhere? Small rewards or signs of progress, some punishment or signs of failure go a long way. It is quite disappointing when you discover you’ve been looking at the wrong drawing this last hour, all for naught.
Tags: RPG DungeonMasterAdvice